By Aerol B. Pateña
Manila, (PNA) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has already identified rice traders who allegedly manipulate prices at the expense of consumers and is preparing to file charges against them, National Rice Program coordinator Dante De Lima stated in an interview with reporters today.
De Lima also said that the Agriculture Department has been cooperating with the DOJ and CIDG in the probe by providing necessary documents and pieces of evidence that will pin down unscrupulous rice traders.
Also, the National Food Authority has activated a legal team that conducts parallel investigation on the alleged ‘rice cartel’ in the country.
Asked why the government is taking a long time to file charges, De Lima answered: “We need to build a strong case against these rice retailers. Hindi naman tayo pwedeng basta mag-file ng kaso na hindi tayo sigurado na mananalo tayo.”
Pressed to identify the rice traders, De Lima refused to speak on the matter and said that the DOJ has jurisdiction on the matter.
“The case is now in the hands of the Justice Department. We must let the investigation run its course,” he said.
Meanwhile, De Lima expressed his apprehension on the proposal by various militant groups that the NFA buying price for palay, which is currently pegged at P17/kg, be increased.
“Raising the buying price of palay might cause sudden spikes in rice prices and lead to more losses for the NFA,” he explained.
He stressed that the current buying price is sufficient enough to support rice farmers.